Lisbon, Portugal

One Stop Shop: Mainstreaming Integration

ACIDI (Alto Comissariado para a Imigração e Dialogo Intercultural)

February 11, 2010

Centralized service centres for improved coordination and better services to newcomers

Housing and employment, visas and banking, schools and hospitals, or a soccer pitch for week-end recreation? Where to start when you need help settling into a new neighbourhood and job ?

Bringing services together under one roof, applying reliable service standards and ensuring open access to everyone (regardless of status) is the operating principle and genius of Lisbon’s One Stop Shop. Better yet, centralized One Stop Shop services are available to all city residents, and not just migrants.

The One Stop Shop model streamlines services to immigrants into one  service location. This helps integrate migrants into both city life and work much faster and with less frustration and fewer false starts.

Lisbon was not the only migrant receiving city who thought this was a good idea.   Migration experts conducted a Europe-wide search to find the best model for immigrant service delivery and it was this Lisbon One Stop Shop model that they selected.

How it Works

The One Stop Shop is a simple idea at the hub of a complex range of services and community needs.

At a One-Stop Shop in Lisbon, over 30 different services are available in one location, including the social security and inland revenue offices, judicial services, banking services and everything you need to know to connect to local government offices. Information is available on schools and the national sports institute, as well as on the electricity and water board. One Stop Shop visitors can do everything from buying internet services to applying for a national health card.

The location and hours of operation permit maximum accessibility, including proximity to urban parking, public transport and extended opening hours (8h30 – 20h00; and Saturday opening).

The convenience of the One Stop Shop service centres also attracts non-immigrants to these locations. This helps “mainstream” city services and promote the healthy development of diverse neighbourhoods and inclusive communities.

Language and cultural mediators are also available for additional practical help and to provide better information on the rights and duties of immigrants in EU Member States. As such, these mediators provide an essential link between government, public institutions and immigrants. This furthers the integration of both immigrants and the receiving society by addressing the two-way challenge of integration in a sensible and flexible way.

More than it seems…

Not only immigrants, but also employers and public institutions benefit tremendously from short, simple and transparent procedures for the application and acquisition of work and residence permits, family certificates, and so on. When these services are delivered correctly and with fairness, a powerful message of respect and dignity is communicated.

As well, this experience of welcome is key to well-integrated communities, according to Rinus Penninx, the coordinator of the IMISCOE Network of Excellence on International Migration, Integration and Social Cohesion in Europe, and lead reviewer of the INTI One Stop Shop project: “In open and inclusive societies, immigrants are welcomed as citizens-to-be.”

Reliable access and accurate information helps build trust in local government and public institutions. Trust promotes attachment and a sense of belonging, both important steps towards active civic engagement and participation.


In 2005 the original National Immigrant Support Centres won first place in the Best Practices in the Public Sector Awards in the category of service provision, and was featured as an example of best practice in the European Commission’s Handbook on Integration for Policy-Makers and Practitioners.  The Common Agenda for Integration (2005) defined the ‘one-stop-shop’ as a priority initiative in strengthening the capacity of public and private service providers to interact with migrants from outside of Europe. In 2007, the original Support Centre in Lisbon was averaging nearly 750 users a day (270,212 annually).

From September 2007 to February 2009, the High Commission for Immigration and Intercultural Dialogue (ACIDI) in Lisbon was funded to coordinate the EU-INTI programme to study and further develop the One Stop Shop model (OSS). The OSS Project included eight country partners in seven EU member states involving partnerships between various Government offices, agencies and non-governmental organizations to examine the feasibility of developing a handbook for replicating the One-Stop Shop model in cities across Europe.

Indeed, a major achievement of the EU-INTI project is the Handbook on How to Implement a One-Stop-Shop for Immigrant Integration, launched at the final conference of the project in Lisbon on 6 February 2009. Happily, this excellent guide to developing your own One Stop Shop is also available for download in German, Greek, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese.

Making it Work for You:

  • Creating a centralized service point for newcomers is practical and efficient in addition to ensuring that immigrants have standardized information and ready access to core services;
  • Centralized services also bring newcomers together with local public institutions and service providers in an open and friendly environment;
  • Coordinating service delivery to newcomers requires public institutions and service providers to collaborate, resulting in less duplication of services and increased cost effective programming;
  • Service coordination includes public institutions as well as private and community sector organizations, encouraging public-private partnership;
  • Language and cultural mediation minimizes error and mis-communication, improves service delivery and builds trust.

For this Good Idea contact:

Catarina Reis Oliveira Project Coordinator
ACIDI (High Commission for Immigration and Intercultural Dialogue)
Rua Álvaro Coutinho, n.º 14
1150-025 Lisboa, Portugal,